Editorial: Clear carbon plan
By Jenn Watt
We’ve all had a taste of carbon pricing now for about a month, since the federal government imposed its system on Ontario when the province chose not to create one of its own.
Since that time, I’ve engaged in several conversations with friends about what the program does, what it should be doing, and in most cases, why it’s a bad thing.
The concept of carbon pricing is essentially this: A cost is added to products that put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – things like fuel for your home or car – and then a set amount is given back to each household each year. (The federal government has said 70 per cent of Canadian households will receive more back than they spend, which was confirmed recently by the Parliamentary Budget Officer.)
No matter your behaviour, you receive the same rebate, which means if you pollute less you end up making money on the deal. It’s an incentive to drive less, fly less, and find ways to use less fuel at home.
Arguments against carbon pricing are legitimate and wide ranging. From among people I’ve spoken to in Haliburton, there is concern that increased costs, though they are refunded each year, are too much for the lowest income residents to pay up-front. Hidden costs are also a worry, as industry may pass their additional expenses on to consumers.
On the other side of the coin, I’ve heard demands that more be done, including a suggestion that money collected be invested in green technology rather than given back as a rebate. Carbon pricing is also unlikely to create the kind of change we need in order to significantly reduce our emissions.
And there are signs that on a wider scale people want more from the government.
A poll conducted of 2,000 Canadians by Abacus Data in April found that 61 per cent liked the idea of a Green New Deal for the country, complete with a robust spending campaign to rapidly transition to a green economy.
Critics in the media have pointed out the federal Liberals’ plans to introduce additional (potentially more useful) measures, such as restricting carbon levels in fuel and methane regulations, have been delayed while the country is consumed with the topic of pricing.
Unfortunately, with all of the confusion and arguing, collectively we’re missing the point.
Thanks to willful procrastination by political leadership over the last, oh, three decades, not much has been done. We’ve seen promises made and broken on the international stage with each new government.
While Canada contributes 1.6 per cent of the greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere each year, we have just .5 per cent of the world’s population. Canada’s emissions are two per cent below 2005 levels. Our commitment as part of the Paris Agreement is to be 30 per cent below 2005 by 2030. We’re obviously behind schedule.
For those of us who don’t intend to become experts on carbon pricing and climate change mitigation, we need earnest, honest solutions presented by leadership – not cynical posturing.
Canadians don’t have time for any more arguing or squabbling. We need large-scale, rapid change. If it’s not carbon pricing, it needs to be a better, stronger plan and it needs to happen now.